Friday, May 4, 2012

Talladega Practice Notes: Almirola Fastest in Both Practice Sessions

 By Micah Roberts

Almirola's best finish at 'Dega: 13th in '08
Aric Almirola showed once again in Friday’s final Talladega practice session that he was faster than everyone while in the draft. Almirola had the top speed of the first session earlier in the day and then laid down a fast lap of 196.725 mph in the final practice.

Joining Almirola for the second straight practice atop the charts was Matt Kenseth at 196.685 mph, good enough for the second fastest speed. Kenseth had been third quickest in the earlier session.

Only 34 of the 46 drivers attempting to qualify even attempted a lap in this final session because they got all they needed to know earlier and, of course, there is no need to wreck the car for data that can’t be translated into race conditions. There isn’t a way to simulate what is actually going to happen in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499, but there is a strong possibility that something bad can happen out there while practicing making it pointless for some.

Although the No. 43 car has run well in plate races of late, it is still kind of a feather in the cap for Mike Ford who is making his debut as Almirola’s crew chief this week. Ford had been Denny Hamlin’s chief for the last six years, and all six years they made the Chase. Being fastest in both practices shouldn’t hurt their confidence on Sunday.

Sunday's race will definitely be a crap shoot with almost everyone who qualifies having a chance. Even after practice, the best formula to deciding who will win still comes down to throwing darts blindly at a bunch of numbers. Although, if the dart lands on No. 43, you might feel a little more comfortable with your chances on Sunday. Incidentally, Almriola's odds to win at the LVH Super Book in Las Vegas were 100-to-1 prior to this practice.

 Practice 2 Top-5 Speeds:
1) Aric Almirola 196.725
2) Matt Kenseth 196.685
3) Greg Biffle 196.105
4) Denny Hamlin 195.692
5) Regan Smith 195.620

Practice 2 Speeds

Almirola Fastest in First Practice Session

Ricky Bobby themed Kurt Busch car (Getty)

Aric Almirola captured the fastest speed in Friday’s first practice session at Talladega Superspeedway going 199.172 mph. The fast lap came within the first five minutes of the 45 minute session amongst a pack of cars that all set top speeds as well.

The biggest dilemma for all the teams is trying to keeps their cars cool, which allows for each driver to get, maybe, five laps in while tucked in behind a car before the radiator starts to heat up. Because of trying to keep cool, several drivers moved in and out from behind a car, nearly clipping the driver in front in and around turns. Kyle Busch looked as though he was going to wreck Joey Logano several times as he tried to keep his car cool.

When these cars raced at Daytona in February -- remember, the race was at night, a very cool night -- the drivers got away with a lot more than they can now just because of the hot Alabama sun.

The individual lap times of the drivers don’t hold the same weight they do for other races just because each driver’s time is dependant upon two or three other drivers. When teams try their mock qualifying attempts in the final practice today, those times will be irrelevant as well, because no car will ever be by themselves during the race.

It’s kind of a waste of time to even discuss who or why a driver might be fast in these practices. The bottom line is that anyone can win this race. Nothing that happens in practice will help formulate an early opinion like can be done with other tracks. Not that Almirola's speed should be diminished or dismissed as a candidate to win, because he could win, but it just doesn't tell enough of the story.   

The best thing that happened in today’s practice was Kurt Busch sporting a ‘Talladega Nights’ theme on his car with a Cougar on the hood, the word ‘Me’ on the side panels and hood, along with ’I Wanna go Fast’ painted on the rear. It was an awesome look, just too bad that isn’t their sponsor as they are still searching for support. Busch finished with the 18th fastest lap at 196.278 mph.

Practice 1 Top-5 Speeds:
1) Aric Almirola 199.172
2) Michael Waltrip 198.343
3) Matt Kenseth 197.986
4) Jeff Gordon 197.843
5) Kevin Harvick 197.725

Practice 1 Speeds

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